Denver, CO

Travel demand makes Denver airport one of busiest globally

Brittany Anas

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Denver International Airport is the third busiest in the world.Denver International Airport

By Brittany Anas / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) With nearly 59 million passengers traveling through in 2021, Denver International Airport ranks as the No. 3 busiest airport in the world, according to new data from the Airports Council International.

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport ranked No. 1 busiest airport globally, while Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport came in at the second busiest. However, DIA ranked as the largest airport for flights for Frontier, Southwest, and United. (Frontier recently announced four more non-stop destinations from DEN, with flights starting at $99).

While passenger traffic was down 15 percent from the previous year, Denver airport officials linkthe high ranking to the strong demand for domestic travel during the pandemic coupled with the Mile High City’s central destination for connecting passengers. By comparison, DEN ranked as the 19th busiest airport globally in 2017 and 2018.

“Despite the challenges, DEN has shown resiliency through the pandemic and has proven why Denver is such an important hub for our airline partners,” said DEN CEO Phil Washington in a press release. “As we continue to recover from the pandemic, we remain committed to working collaboratively with our airlines to expand DEN’s air service network providing even more travel options to and from Denver.”

To keep pace with its growth, construction projects at DIA began in 2018, and airport officials expect renovations to continue through at least 2028.

The first two phases of the airport’s Great Hall project will cost $770 million. Construction started slowly, with project delays and the city firing the original contractor. Now, the airport has moved to its $1.3 billion completion phase. DIA officials use construction signs to quip about the conspiracy theories that riddle the airport.

DIA officials say 2022 is also looking to be a busy year. Although January 2022 saw a decline of 13 percent compared to January 2019 due to the impacts of the omicron variant, February 2022 was the first month since the start of the pandemic DIA recorded a monthly increase compared to 2019.

Here are the top 10 busiest airports in the world and the numbers of passengers who traveled through in 2021:

No. 1: Atlanta (ATL) with 75,704,760 passengers

No. 2: Dallas/Ft. Worth with (DFW) 62,465,756 passengers

No. 3: DENVER (DEN) with 58,828,552 passengers

No. 4: Chicago-O’Hare with (ORD) 54,020,399 passengers

No. 5: Los Angeles with (LAX) 48,007,284 passengers

No. 6 Charlotte (CLT) with 43,302,230 passengers

No. 7 Orlando (MCO) with 40,351,068 passengers

No. 8 Guangzhou (CAN) with 40,259,401 passengers

No. 9 Chengdu (CTU) with 40,117,496 passengers

No. 10 Las Vegas (LAS) with 39,754,366 passengers

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Brittany is a journalist in the Denver metro area with more than two decades of writing and editing experience. She covers travel, restaurants and other lifestyle topics.

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